April Member in the Spotlight: Timothy Rissel: Cuba Libre

Director of Sales & Local Marketing, Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar

Description of product or service:

Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar started as a vibrant window into a distant culture in Philadelphia’s Old City neighborhood more than 15 years ago. Today, the four locations in Philadelphia, PA; Atlantic City, NJ; Orlando, FL and Washington, DC are transportive restaurants whose decor and menu evoke the culture, flavors and history of Old Havana, Cuba. Two-time James Beard Award-winning Chef-Partner Guillermo Pernot’s menus feature tantalizing tastes that reflect Cuba’s culinary traditions, as well as the emerging modern cuisine he experiences during his bi-annual culinary excursions to Cuba, which are open to the public. The classic and contemporary Cuban cuisine, combined with an expansive menu of hand-crafted cocktails and more than 90 varieties of rum, and the Latin nightlife offered on Friday and Saturday nights after dinner service make Cuba Libre a must-see, must-experience dining and dancing destination.

How many years have you been with company or in business?


What company or organization you respect most and why?

I really respect Snap Kitchen. They have fantastic products and are building an exciting culture with their health and wellness brand, while still maintaining a culinary focus.  Their expansion over the past few years has been incredible.

Which business leader or innovator do you most want to emulate and why?

To be honest, I strive most to emulate my father.  He runs a commercial and residential water conditioning and filtration company based in Chester County, and has grown his business from just a weekend side project when I was a kid, to a full-time career. Everything I know about honest and dependable business practices, I learned from him.

What is the most important business decision you’ve made to date?

Proper staffing is always key in the restaurant industry, as success is measured by providing guests with an unforgettable experience. Employees become ambassadors of the brand.  They are the face of the overall concept, and have the most interaction with clientele.  Taking time to hire the best people possible provides for a much smoother operational path in the future.

What is the most important life decision you’ve made to date?

The most important life decision I made was making the move to Washington, DC with GuestCounts Hospitality.  I was born and raised in the Philadelphia area, and spent nine years working in the Philadelphia restaurant industry.  It was exciting to move to a different market and experience the rapidly growing restaurant scene of our nation’s capital.

When and why did you join the IBA?

I joined the IBA in December of 2016.  I met Zach Wilcha at a networking event, and discussed how membership with the IBA could be a great asset for myself and the company – it has proven to be just that, and more.

Since joining the IBA, what has been the greatest advantage to you and your business being a member of the Chamber?

My favorite aspect of being an IBA member is meeting like-minded professionals in the city.  The IBA has been a great way to jump back into the business culture of Philadelphia.

What is your proudest moment, honor, or achievement?

My proudest moment so far would have to be my promotion to my current position as Director of Sales and Marketing.  It meant a lot to me that our senior management believed in me enough to encourage me to move back from Washington, DC and take over the sales department here in Philadelphia. The trust and support of GuestCounts Hospitality’s executive team has been incredible.

What programs, outreach, or organizations are you involved in that give back to the community?

One of my favorite ways to give back to the community is by giving the gift of food to local non-profit organizations and companies that work to help others. Events and food are my specialties, and to be able to provide a donated “Dinner for Two” gift to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, or a complimentary hors d’oeuvres spread for a non-profit hosting an event at Cuba Libre is just an incredible feeling.

What is a little known fact about you?

I once dressed as Peg Bundy for a Halloween event.  The costume was not the best, but I learned that evening that I can run in heels…and also that I look exactly like my mother.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

Mariah Carey’s Christmas album.

To date, what has been your most favorite vacation spot?

Creede, Colorado. I’ve spent the past couple summers out there exploring and seeing shows at the Creede Repertory Theatre Company. It’s the only place where you can spend the day hiking along the Rio Grande, and then see a Broadway caliber show at night.

What is the last book you read?

The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead by Charles Murray.